It appears to have suddenly dawned on a great swath of Internet users that to get the most out of their faster, cheaper, wildly capacious multimedia machines we used to call personal computers — they need broadband access to turn the digital stream from a trickle to a torrent. AOL throwing its weight behind broadband didn’t hurt either, especially with more timid and newer users.
Nielsen/NetRatings’ latest report on U.S. Internet usage finds that the total number of U.S. broadband users exceeded 95 million in February, an increase of 28 percent over the same period in 2005. 68 percent of all active U.S. Internet users now use broadband, up from 55 percent last year and 33 percent only three years ago. U.S. Internet usage hovers at about 74% of the entire U.S. population.
As computer speed, capacity, and broadband penetration have increased, so has the average PC time spent per person, according the report. With zippy connections to websites for such multimedia fare as audio and video files, games, online photos, and the like, users are devoting more time to their computers. The average PC time per person among active Internetters has increased approximately five hours from 25 and a half hours a month, to 30 and a half hours a month since February of ’03.
“The correlated growth in average PC time per person is the result of broadband users’ greater satisfaction with their online experience,” said Nielsen//NetRatings’ Jon Gibs. “The ‘always on’ nature of a broadband connection allows the Internet to become more entrenched in consumers’ lives. In broadband consumers’ minds, activities such as checking account balances, downloading music, watching streaming video, and checking email become just another application of the PC rather than a separate activity that happens when they log on to the Internet.”
Which also enables the pandemic spread of malware, especially among unsophisticated users; but that’s another topic.
“Video sites have successfully tapped into the use of viral campaigns, capitalizing on consumers’ impulse to share funny clips with their friends,” added Gibs. “Among these sites, it is not uncommon to see dramatic spikes in weekly Web traffic due to a popular online video that has been sent from person to person. Television networks should be looking to embrace, rather than pull away from these sites, in order to generate buzz for their broadcast programming.”
As a result, MSN Video snagged 9.3 million unique visitors in February 2006, growing 44 percent over February ’05. YouTube and Google Video grew from non-players a year ago to heavy hitters in February 2006, drawing 9.0 million and 6.2 million unique visitors respectively. iFilm and Yahoo’s video search drew 4.3 million and 3.8 million uniques for the month, each more than doubling February ’05 totals.